Emperors responded to the increased insecurity with a steady build-up of the forces at their immediate disposal. These became known as the comitatus "escort", from which derives the English word "committee". He doubled the size of the imperial escort cavalry, the equites singulares Augusti , to 2, by drawing select detachments from alae on the borders. This included equites promoti cavalry contingents detached from the legions , plus Illyrian light cavalry equites Dalmatarum and allied barbarian cavalry equites foederati. The cavalry remained integral to the mixed infantry- and cavalry- comitatus , with the infantry remaining the predominant element.
The seminal development for the army in the early 3rd century was the Constitutio Antoniniana Antonine Decree of , issued by Emperor Caracalla ruled — This granted Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire, ending the second-class status of the peregrini. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the legions were the symbol and guarantors of the dominance of the Italian "master nation" over its subject peoples.
In the 3rd century, they were no longer socially superior to their auxiliary counterparts although they may have retained their elite status in military terms. In tandem, the legions' special armour and equipment e. Legions were broken up into smaller units, as evidenced by the shrinkage and eventual abandonment of their traditional large bases, documented for example in Britain. The first global estimate for the size of the imperial army in the ancient sources is in the Annales of Tacitus. In AD 23, shortly after the end of the rule of Augustus, there were 25 legions about , men and "roughly the same number again of auxiliaries" in about regiments.
From this base-line of c. The number of legions increased to 33, and auxiliary regiments even more sharply to over regiments. In the late 3rd century, it is likely that the army suffered a sharp decline in numbers due to the so-called " Third Century Crisis " a period of numerous civil wars, major barbarian invasions and above all, the Plague of Cyprian , an outbreak of smallpox which may have eliminated as many as a third of the army's effectives.
It is possible that, by AD , the army was not much greater than in AD From this low point it seems that numbers were substantially increased, by at least a third, under Diocletian r. John the Lydian reports at some point in his reign the army totalled , men — restoring overall strength to the level attained under Hadrian. Regular land forces only. Excludes citizen-militias, barbarian foederati , and Roman navy effectives.
It is estimated that the imperial fleets employed , personnel. The impact of the costs of this enormous standing army on the Roman economy can be measured very approximately. Army costs thus rose only moderately as a share of GDP between 14 and AD, despite a major increase in army effectives of c.
This is because the empire's population, and therefore total GDP, also increased substantially by c. Thereafter, the army's share of GDP leapt by almost half, although army numbers increased only c. Nevertheless, even in , the Romans spent a similar proportion of GDP on defence than today's global superpower, the United States of America which spent c. Indeed, a study of imperial taxes in Egypt, by far the best-documented province, concluded that the burden was relatively severe. Military spending swallowed up c. Augustus instituted this policy, with a one-off payment of denarii per child. Under the Augustan settlement, the Roman state formally remained a republic, with the same official name, Senatus Populusque Romanus SPQR — "The Senate and People of Rome" and administered by the same magistrates state executive officers as before: In practice, however, political and military power was concentrated in the hands of the emperor , whose official titles were princeps "First Citizen" and Augustus.
The emperor's supremacy was based on his assumption of two permanent and sweeping powers: The latter post was especially useful, as it gave him the power to appoint or remove members from the roll of Senators and from the Order of Knights , the two aristocratic orders of imperial Rome, which filled all senior administrative and military positions. In the border provinces where military units were mostly stationed i. The governors, who normally held office for three years, commanded all forces in their provinces, both legions and auxilia, as well as being the heads of the civil administration.
The governors reported directly to the emperor — there were no intermediate levels of command. However, there are instances during the Principate where the governors of smaller provinces were subordinated to governors of larger neighbouring ones e. At Rome, there was no army general staff in the modern sense of a permanent central group of senior staff-officers who would receive and analyse military intelligence and advise on strategy. Augustus established a formal consilium principis "imperial council" of magistrates and leading senators in rotation to advise him on all state matters and to prepare draft-decrees for submission to the Senate.
But the real decisions were made by a semi-formal group of senior officials and close friends, the amici principis "friends of the emperor" , whose membership was chosen by himself and might vary from time to time. Under Tiberius, the amici superseded the formal consilium and became the effective governing body of the empire. Several amici would have had extensive military experience, due to the traditional mixing of civilian and military posts by the Principate aristocracy.
But there was no consilium specifically dedicated to military affairs. Commanders of the Praetorian Guard, especially if they did not share their command with a partner, might acquire a predominant influence in military decision-making and act as de facto military chief-of-staff e. Sejanus, who was sole commander of the Guard AD , most of the emperor Tiberius ' rule. The emperor and his advisors relied almost entirely on reports from the odd "military" governors for their intelligence on the security situation on the imperial borders.
The term came to be applied to auxiliary soldiers seconded to the staff of the procurator Augusti , the independent chief financial officer of a province, to assist in the collection of taxes originally in kind as grain. At some point, probably under Hadrian r. A permanent military unit numerus of frumentarii was established. Based in Rome, it was under the command of a senior centurion, the princeps frumentariorum. The lack of independent military intelligence, coupled with the slow speeds of communication, prevented the emperor and his consilium from exercising anything but the most general control over military operations in the provinces.
Typically, a newly appointed governor would be given a broad strategic direction by the emperor, such as whether to attempt to annex or abandon territory on their province's borders or whether to make or avoid war with a powerful neighbour such as Parthia. For example, in Britain, the governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola appears to have been given approval for a strategy of subjugating the whole of Caledonia Scotland by Vespasian, only to have his gains abandoned by Domitian after AD 87, who needed reinforcements on the Danube front, which was threatened by the Sarmatians and Dacians.
However, within these broad guidelines, the governor had almost complete autonomy of military decision-making. In those provinces that contained military forces, the governor's immediate subordinates were the commanders legati legionis in command of the legions stationed in the province e. In turn, the legionary commander was reported to by the combat-unit commanders: The empire's high command structure was thus remarkably flat, with only four reporting levels between combat-unit commanders and the emperor. An auxiliary regiment would normally, but not always, be attached to a legion for operational purposes, with the praefectus under the command of the legatus legionis the legion's commander.
The period that it was so attached could be a long one e. Augustus' successor Tiberius r. Sejanus , and, after ordering the latter's execution for treason, Macro. Under the influence of Sejanus, who also acted as his chief political advisor, Tiberius decided to concentrate the accommodation of all the Praetorian cohorts into a single, purpose-built fortress of massive size on the outskirts of Rome, beyond the Servian Wall. Known as the castra praetoria "praetorian camp" , its construction was complete by AD By AD 23, there were nine Praetorian cohorts in existence.
Each cohort was under the command of a military tribune, normally a former chief centurion of a legion. It appears that each cohort contained some ninety cavalrymen who, like legionary cavalry were members of infantry centuriae , but operated in the field as three turmae of thirty men each. During the civil war, Vitellius disbanded the existing cohorts because he did not trust their loyalty and recruited 16 new ones, all double-strength i. By this time, therefore, the Guard consisted of c. It was probably Trajan r.
An elite troop recruited from members of the finest auxiliary alae originally from Batavi alae only , the singulares were tasked with escorting the emperor on campaign. The unit was organised as a milliary ala , probably containing horsemen. It was the only praetorian regiment that admitted persons who were not natural-born citizens, although recruits appear to have been granted citizenship on enlistment and not on completion of 25 years' service as for other auxiliaries. The unit was housed in its own barracks on the Caelian hill , separate from the main castra praetoria. By the time of Hadrian r.
Some historians have dismissed the Praetorian Guard as a parade-ground army of little military value. The Praetorians were certainly taunted as such by the soldiers of the Danubian legions during the civil war of After that date, emperors led armies, and therefore deployed the Praetorians on campaign, much more frequently. The Praetorians were in the thick of the Emperor Domitian's wars, firstly in Germany and then on the Dacian front, where their prefect, Cornelius Fuscus was killed in action Other examples include the Praetorians' prominent role in Trajan's Dacian Wars , as acknowledged on the friezes of Trajan's Column and the Adamklissi Tropaeum.
Equally celebrated, on the Column of Marcus Aurelius , was the Praetorians' role in the Marcomannic Wars , in which two Guard prefects lost their lives. Many perished fighting and others drowned when the makeshift pontoon-bridge they were using collapsed. Subsequently, the Praetorians paid the price of supporting the losing side: The legion consisted almost entirely of heavy infantry i. Although it was almost unbeatable by non-Roman infantry on the battlefield, it was a large, inflexible unit that could not campaign independently due to the lack of cavalry cover and other specialist forces.
It was dependent on the support of auxiliary regiments. The legion's basic sub-unit was the centuria plural: The legion's main tactical sub-unit was the cohors plural: There were 10 cohorts to each legion, or 4, men c. Thus a legion was equivalent in numbers to a modern brigade. By AD , however, the legion's First Cohort was divided into only five centuriae , but double-strength at men each, for a total of men.
At this point, therefore, a legion would have numbered c.
In addition, each legion contained a small cavalry contingent of men. Unlike auxiliary cavalry, however, they do not appear to have been organised in separate cavalry squadrons turmae as were auxiliary cavalry, but to have been divided among specific centuriae. Legionary cavalry probably performed a non-combat role as messengers, scouts and escorts for senior officers. The following table sets out the official, or establishment, strength of auxiliary units in the 2nd century.
The real strength of a unit would fluctuate continually, but would likely have been somewhat less than the establishment most of the time. Notes 1 Opinion is divided about the size of an ala turma , between 30 and 32 men. A turma numbered 30 in the Republican cavalry and in the cohors equitata of the Principate auxilia. Against this is a statement by Arrian that an ala was strong. Unless the regiment name, was qualified by a specialist function e.
These all-infantry units were modeled on the cohorts of the legions, with the same officers and sub-units. It is a common misconception that auxiliary cohortes contained light infantry: Their defensive equipment of regular auxiliary infantry was very similar to that of legionaries, consisting of metal helmet and metal cuirass chain-mail or scale. There is no evidence that auxiliaries were equipped with the lorica segmentata , the elaborate and expensive laminated-strip body-armour that was issued to legionaries.
However, legionaries often wore chain-mail and scalar cuirasses also. In addition, it appears that auxiliaries carried a round shield clipeus instead of the curved rectangular shield scutum of legionaries. As regards weapons, auxiliaries were equipped in the same way as legionaries: There is no evidence that auxiliary infantry fought in a looser order than legionaries. The all-mounted alae contained the elite cavalry of the Roman army. They were best-suited for large-scale operations and battle, during which they acted as the primary cavalry escort for the legions, which had almost no cavalry of their own.
They were heavily protected, with chain-mail or scale body armour, a cavalry version of the infantry helmet with more protective features and oval shield. Their offensive weapons included a spear hasta , a cavalry sword spatha , which was much longer than the infantry gladius to provide greater reach and a long dagger. These were cohortes with a cavalry contingent attached.
There is evidence that their numbers expanded with the passage of time. A study of units stationed in Syria in the mid 2nd century found that many units which did not carry the equitata title did in fact contain cavalrymen e. A cohors equitata was in effect a self-contained mini-army. The traditional view of equites cohortales the cavalry arm of cohortes equitatae , as expounded by G. Cheesman, was that they were just a mounted infantry with poor-quality horses. They would use their mounts simply to reach the battlefield and then would dismount to fight.
Although it is clear that equites cohortales did not match equites alares ala cavalrymen in quality hence their lower pay , the evidence is that they fought as cavalry in the same way as the alares and often alongside them. Their armour and weapons were the same as for the alares. Nevertheless, non-combat roles of the equites cohortales differed significantly from the alares. Non-combat roles such as despatch-riders dispositi were generally filled by cohort cavalry.
In the Republican period, the standard trio of specialised auxilia were Balearic slingers, Cretan archers and Numidian light cavalry. These functions, plus some new ones, continued in the 2nd century auxilia. Equites cataphractarii , or simply cataphractarii for short, were the heavily armoured cavalry of the Roman army. Based on Sarmatian and Parthian models, they were also known as contarii and clibanarii , although it is unclear whether these terms were interchangeable or whether they denoted variations in equipment or role.
Their common feature was scalar armour which covered the whole body and conical helmets. Their lances contus were very long and were held in both hands, precluding the use of shields. In some cases, their horses are also depicted as protected by scalar armour, including head-piece. Normally, they were also equipped with long swords. In some cases, they carried bows instead of lances. Together with new units of light mounted archers, the cataphractarii were designed to counter Parthian and, in Pannonia , Sarmatian battle-tactics. Parthian armies consisted largely of cavalry. Their standard tactic was to use light mounted archers to weaken and break up the Roman infantry line, and then to rout it with a charge by the cataphractarii concentrated on the weakest point.
From the Second Punic War until the 3rd century AD, the bulk of Rome's light cavalry apart from mounted archers from Syria was provided by the inhabitants of the northwest African provinces of Africa proconsularis and Mauretania , the Numidae or Mauri from whom derives the English term "Moors" , who were the ancestors of the Berber people of modern Algeria and Morocco. They were known as the equites Maurorum or Numidarum "Moorish or Numidian cavalry".
On Trajan's Column, Mauri horsemen, depicted with long hair in dreadlocks, are shown riding their small but resilient horses bare-back and unbridled, with a simple braided rope round their mount's neck for control. They wear no body or head armour, carrying only a small, round leather shield. Their weaponry cannot be discerned due to stone erosion, but is known from Livy to have consisted of several short javelins. They were superbly suited to scouting, harassment, ambush and pursuit, but in melee combat were vulnerable to cuirassiers. In the 3rd century, new formations of light cavalry appear, apparently recruited from the Danubian provinces: Little is known about these, but they were prominent in the 4th century, with several units listed in the Notitia Dignitatum.
A unit of dromedarii "camel-mounted troops" is attested from the 2nd century, the ala I Ulpia dromedariorum milliaria in Syria. A substantial number of auxiliary regiments 32, or about one in twelve in the 2nd century were denoted sagittariorum , or archer-units from sagittarii lit. These 32 units of which four were double-strength had a total official strength of 17, men. All three types of auxiliary regiment ala , cohors and cohors equitata could be denoted sagittariorum. Although these units evidently specialised in archery, it is uncertain from the available evidence whether all sagittariorum personnel were archers, or simply a higher proportion than in ordinary units.
At the same time, ordinary regiments probably also possessed some archers, otherwise their capacity for independent operations would have been unduly constrained. Bas-reliefs appear to show personnel in ordinary units employing bows. From about BC onwards, the archers of the Roman army of the mid-Republic were virtually all mercenaries from the island of Crete , which boasted a long specialist tradition.
During the late Republic BC and the Augustan period, Crete was gradually eclipsed by men from other, much more populous, regions with strong archery traditions, newly subjugated by the Romans. These included Thrace , Anatolia and above all, Syria. Of the thirty-two sagittarii units attested in the mid 2nd century, thirteen have Syrian names, seven Thracian, five from Anatolia, one from Crete and the remaining six of other or uncertain origin. Three distinct types of archers are shown on Trajan's Column: The first type were probably Syrian or Anatolian units; the third type probably Thracian.
From about BC onwards, the Republican army's slingers were exclusively mercenaries from the Balearic Islands , which had nurtured a strong indigenous tradition of slinging from prehistoric times. Because of this, it is uncertain whether the most of the imperial army's slingers continued to be drawn from the Balearics themselves, or, like archers, derived mainly from other regions.
Independent slinger units are not attested in the epigraphic record of the Principate. They are shown unarmoured, wearing a short tunic. They carry a cloth bag, slung in front, to hold their shot glandes. Examples include two numeri exploratorum attested in the 3rd century in Britain: Habitanco and Bremenio both names of forts. Little is known about such units. Throughout the Principate period, there is evidence of ethnic units of barbari outside the normal auxilia organisation fighting alongside Roman troops.
To an extent, these units were simply a continuation of the old client-king levies of the late Republic: Some units, however, remained in Roman service for substantial periods after the campaign for which they were raised, keeping their own native leadership, attire and equipment and structure. These units were variously called by the Romans socii "allies" , symmachiarii from symmachoi , Greek for "allies" or foederati "treaty troops" from foedus , "treaty".
One estimate puts the number of foederati in the time of Trajan at c. The purpose of employing foederati units was to use their specialist fighting skills. The foederati make their first official appearance on Trajan's Column, where they are portrayed in a standardised manner, with long hair and beards, barefoot, stripped to the waist, wearing long trousers held up by wide belts and wielding clubs.
In reality several different tribes supported the Romans in the Dacian wars. Their attire and weapons would have varied widely. The Column stereotypes them with the appearance of a single tribe, probably the most outlandish-looking, to differentiate them clearly from the regular auxilia.
Another example of foederati are the 5, captured Sarmatian cavalrymen sent by Emperor Marcus Aurelius r. As had been the case during the Republic, the legions of the Principate era recruited Roman citizens exclusively. From the time of Augustus, legionary recruitment was largely voluntary. Republican-style conscription of citizens was only resorted to during emergencies which demanded exceptionally heavy recruitment, such as the Illyrian revolt AD Once the borders of the empire stabilised in the mid-1st century, most legions were based in particular provinces long-term.
The number of Italian-born recruits dwindled. According to one survey, c. Italians thus represented c. As descendants of the latter, such recruits were, at least partially, of Italian blood; e. However, the proportion of legionaries of Italian blood dropped still further as the progeny of auxiliary veterans, who were granted citizenship on discharge, became a major source of legionary recruits. It was probably to redress this shortfall that Marcus Aurelius, faced with a major war against the Marcomanni, raised two new legions in , II Italica and III Italica , apparently from Italian recruits and presumably by conscription.
A major recruitment problem for the legions was that the host provinces often lacked a sufficiently large base of citizens to satisfy their recruitment needs. For example, Britannia province, where Mattingly doubts that the three legions deployed could fill their vacancies from a citizen-body of only c. This implies that the British legions must have drawn many recruits from elsewhere, especially from northern Gaul.
The frontier legions' recruitment problems have led some historians to suggest that the rule limiting legionary recruitment to citizens was largely ignored in practice. But the evidence is that the rule was strictly enforced e. From the time of Augustus until the rule of Septimius Severus , serving legionaries were legally prohibited from marrying presumably so as to discourage them from deserting if they were deployed far from heir families.
However, with most legions deployed in the same bases long-term, legionaries often did develop stable relationships and bring up children. The latter, although of Roman blood, were illegitimate in Roman law and thus could not inherit their fathers' citizenship. Nevertheless, it appears that the sons of serving legionaries were routinely recruited, perhaps through the device of granting them citizenship when they enlisted.
In the 1st century, the vast majority of auxiliary common soldiers were recruited from the Roman peregrini second-class citizens. In the Julio-Claudian era to AD 68 , conscription of peregrini seems to have been practiced, probably in the form of a fixed proportion of men reaching military age in each tribe being drafted, alongside voluntary recruitment. When it was first raised, an auxiliary regiment would have been recruited from the native tribe or people whose name it bore.
In the early Julio-Claudian period, it seems that efforts were made to preserve the ethnic integrity of units, even when the regiment was posted in a faraway province, but in the later part of the period, recruitment in the region where the regiment was posted increased and became predominant from the Flavian era onwards.
This view has to be qualified, however, as evidence from military diplomas and other inscriptions shows that some units continued to recruit in their original home areas e. Batavi units stationed in Britain, where several other units had an international membership.
About 50 auxiliary regiments founded by Augustus were, exceptionally, recruited from Roman citizens. This was due to the emergency manpower requirements of the Illyrian revolt AD , which was described by the Roman historian Suetonius as the most difficult conflict Rome had faced since the Punic Wars. Although the Republican minimum property requirement for admission to the legions had long since been abandoned, citizens who were vagrants, convicted criminals, undischarged debtors, or freed slaves Roman law accorded citizenship to the freed slaves of Roman citizens were still excluded.
Desperate for recruits, Augustus had already resorted to the compulsory purchase and emancipation of thousands of slaves for the first time since the aftermath of the Battle of Cannae two centuries earlier. So he formed separate auxiliary regiments from them. These units were accorded the title civium Romanorum "of Roman citizens" , or c.
After the Illyrian revolt, these cohorts remained in being and recruited peregrini like other auxiliary units, but retained their prestigious c. Apart from the citizen-regiments raised by Augustus, Roman citizens were regularly recruited to the auxilia. Most likely, the majority of citizen-recruits to auxiliary regiments were the sons of auxiliary veterans who were enfranchised on their fathers' discharge. Legionaries frequently transferred to the auxilia mostly promoted to a higher rank.
It is less clear-cut whether the regular auxilia recruited barbari barbarians, as the Romans called people living outside the empire's borders. Although there is little evidence of it before the 3rd century, the consensus is that the auxilia recruited barbarians throughout their history. A legion's ranks, role and pay, with auxiliary and modern equivalents, may be summarised as follows:. Explanation of modern rank comparisons: It is difficult to find precise modern equivalents to the ranks of an ancient, unmechanised army in which aristocratic birth was a pre-requisite for most senior positions.
Thus such comparisons should be treated with caution. Nevertheless, some approximate parallels can be found. The ones presented here are based on rank-comparisons used in Grant's translation of the Annales by Tacitus. As they mostly rose from the ranks, centurions are compared to modern sergeants-major, the most senior officers without a commission. An ordinary centurion was in command of a centuria of 80 men, equivalent to a company in a modern army, and is thus comparable to a British company sergeant-major U. Senior centurions, known as primi ordinis "of the first order" , consisted of the five commanders of the double-strength centuriae of the First Cohort men each ; and the nine pilus prior centurions commanders of the 1st centuria of each cohort , who in the field are generally presumed by scholars to have been the actual though not official commanders of their whole cohort of men, equivalent to a modern battalion.
A senior centurion is thus likened to a British regimental sergeant-major U. The primus pilus , the chief centurion of the legion, has no clear parallel. From the centurionate, the rank-structure jumps to the military tribunes, aristocrats who were directly appointed senior officers and thus comparable to modern commissioned officers. Although primarily staff-officers, in the field tribunes could be placed in command of one or more cohorts Praetorian Guard cohorts were commanded by tribunes, and in the auxilia, a praefectus , equivalent in rank to a tribune, commanded a cohort-sized regiment.
These officers are thus comparable to modern colonels , who normally command battalions or regiments in a modern army. Finally, the legatus legionis was in command of the whole legion over 5, men, equivalent to a modern brigade , plus roughly the same number of auxiliaries in attached regiments, bringing the total to c.
Imperial Roman army
Thus a legatus is comparable to a modern general officer. The legions thus lacked any equivalent to modern junior commissioned officers lieutenant to major. This is because the Romans saw no need to complement their centurions, who were considered fully capable of field commands, with commissioned officers. As a consequence, a chief centurion promoted to praefectus castrorum would, in modern terms, leap from sergeant-major to the rank of colonel in one bound.
At the bottom end of the rank pyramid, rankers were known as caligati lit: Depending on the type of regiment they belonged to, they held the official ranks of pedes foot-soldier in a legion or auxiliary cohors , eques cavalryman in legionary cavalry or an auxiliary cohors equitata and eques alaris ala cavalryman. Soldiers' working lives were arduous. As well as facing the hardships of military discipline and training, and the dangers of military operations, soldiers fulfilled a large number of other functions, such as construction workers, policemen, and tax collectors see below, Everyday life.
It has been estimated from the available data that only an average of c. This mortality rate was well in excess of the contemporary demographic norm for the age-group. And even after your official discharge, your service is not finished. For you stay on with the colours as a reserve, still under canvas - the same drudgery under another name!
And if you manage to survive all these hazards, even then you are dragged off to a remote country and settled in some waterlogged swamp or untilled mountainside. Truly the army is a harsh, unrewarding profession! Body and soul are reckoned at two and a half sesterces a day - and with this you have to find clothes, weapons, tents and bribes for brutal centurions if you want to avoid chores. Heaven knows, lashes and wounds are always with us! So are hard winters and hardworking summers There was a confused roar about their wretched pay, the high cost of exemptions from duty, and the hardness of the work.
Specific reference was made to earthworks, excavations, foraging, collecting timber and firewood Basic legionary pay was set at denarii per annum under Augustus. Until at least AD , auxiliary soldiers were apparently paid less than their legionary counterparts. In the early Julio-Claudian period, it has been suggested that an auxiliary foot-soldier was paid only a third the rate of a legionary although an eques alaris was paid two-thirds.
Real pay calculated by dividing silver content of Augustan denarius 85 d. Furthermore, a soldier's gross salary was subject to deductions for food and equipment. The latter included weapons, tents, clothing, boots and hay probably for the company mules. A legionary's daily pay-rate of 2. The reason is that the comparison with a Rome day-labourer is misleading. The vast majority of the army's recruits were drawn from provincial peasant families living on subsistence farming i.
In any case, where a peasant family had more children than its plot of land could support, enlistment of one or more sons in the military would have been a matter of necessity, rather than choice. In addition, soldiers enjoyed significant advantages over day-labourers. They had job security for life assuming they were not dishonourably discharged. Legionaries could count on irregular but substantial cash bonuses donativa , paid on the accession of a new emperor and on other special occasions; and, on completion of service, a substantial discharge-bonus praemia equivalent to 13 years' gross pay, which would enable him to buy a large plot of land.
Auxiliaries were exempt from the annual poll-tax payable by all their fellow- peregrini and were rewarded on discharge with Roman citizenship for themselves and their heirs. Duncan-Jones argues that, at least from the time of Hadrian, auxiliaries also received donativa and praemia. Out of men, a typical cohort would contain 24 junior officers other than specialists. The great mutinies of AD 14, which were about pay and conditions — as distinct from later revolts in support of a contender for the imperial throne — were never repeated.
The reason they occurred at all was probably because, at the time, many legionaries were still conscripts mostly enlisted during the Illyrian revolt crisis of AD and the majority still Italians. This made them far less tolerant of the hardships of military life than provincial volunteers. Italians were by this stage used to a higher standard of living than their provincial subjects, largely due to a massive effective subsidy by the latter: Italians had long been exempt from direct taxation on land and heads and, at the same time, rents from the vast imperial and private Roman-owned estates carved out by conquest in the provinces largely flowed to Italy.
Thus, a central demand of the 14 CE mutineers was that legionary pay be increased from 2. This was conceded by Tiberius in order to pacify the mutiny, but soon revoked as unaffordable, and pay remained at roughly the same real level into the 3rd century. Rankers with specialist skills were classed as milites immunes "exempt soldiers" , meaning that they were exempt from the normal duties of their fellow-soldiers so that they could practice their trade. A legion would contain over immunes. Below centurion rank, junior officers in the centuria were known as principales. Principales , together with some specialists, were classified in two pay-scales: A higher rank of triplicarius "triple-pay soldier" is attested very rarely in the 1st century and this pay-scale was probably short-lived.
Duplicarii , in ascending order of rank, were the optio , or centurion's deputy, who was appointed by his centurion and would expect to succeed him when the latter was promoted. While a centurion led his unit from the front in battle, his optio would bring up the rear. Responsible for preventing rankers from leaving the line, the optio was equipped with a long, silver-tipped stave which was used to push the rear ranks forward. Ranking just below centurion was the signifer standard-bearer , who bore the centuria' s signum.
In the field, the signifer wore the skin of a wolf's head over his own. The aquilifer bore the legion's aquila standard, and wore a lion's head. He accompanied the chief centurion, as did the legion's imaginifer , who bore a standard with the emperor's image. All these standard-bearers were duplicarii.
An auxiliary regiment's junior officers appear broadly the same as in the legions. These were, in ascending order: However, auxiliary regiments also attest a custos armorum "keeper of the armoury" , on pay-and-a-half. The vexillarius , bore the regiment's standard, on double-pay. In addition, the turma of an ala appear to have contained a curator on double-pay, ranking just below decurion, apparently in charge of horses and caparison.
Between junior officers principales and senior officers tribuni militum , the Roman army contained a class of officers called centurions centuriones , singular form: These officers commanded the basic tactical units in the army: Broadly speaking, centurions and decurions were considered to be of corresponding rank. The great majority of rankers never advanced beyond principalis. The few who did became centurions, a rank they would normally attain after 13—20 years of service to reach this level. However, the latter occasionally followed the Republican tradition and allowed the men of a centuria to elect their own centurion.
Although most centurions rose from the ranks, there are a few instances attested of young men who were directly appointed centurions on enlistment: Centurions were arguably the most important group of officers in the army, as they led the legions' tactical sub-units cohorts and centuriae in the field. In consequence, on becoming a centurion, a soldier's pay and prestige would undergo a quantum-leap. Centurions were paid far more than their men.
The available evidence is scant, but suggests that, in the 2nd century, an ordinary centurion was paid 16 times the pay of a ranker. Each legion contained 60 later 59 centurions, ranked in an elaborate hierarchy. Each of the 10 cohorts was ranked in seniority, the 1st Cohort whose centuriae , after about AD 80, were double-strength being the highest.
Within each cohort, each of its six centuriae , and thus of its commanding centurion, was likewise ranked. Within this hierarchy, three broad ranks can be discerned: Senior centurions included those in command of the five centuriae in the 1st Cohort and the centuriones pilus prior "front-spear" centurions of the other nine cohorts i. All centurions, including the primus pilus , were expected to lead their units from the front, on foot like their men, and were invariably in the thick of any combat melee.
As a consequence, their casualty rates in battle were often heavy. All the centurions of the 4th cohort [of the 12th legion] were dead, and the standard lost; nearly all the centurions of the rest of the cohorts were either killed or wounded, including the chief centurion, P. Sextius Baculus, a very brave man, who was so disabled by serious wounds that he could no longer stand on his feet. The chief centurion was accompanied by the aquilifer and had the even weightier responsibility of protecting the legion's aquila eagle-standard. Centurions were also responsible for discipline in their units, symbolised by the vitis or vine-stick which they carried as a badge of their rank.
The stick was by no means purely symbolic and was frequently used to beat recalcitrant rankers. Tacitus relates that one centurion in the army in Pannonia gained the nickname Da mihi alteram! In one legion, each centurion was given 60 lashes of the flail by the mutineers, to represent the legion's total number of centurions, and was then thrown into the Rhine to drown. Outside the military sphere, centurions performed a wide range of administrative duties at a senior level, which was necessary in the absence of an adequate bureaucracy to support provincial governors.
A centurion might serve as a regionarius , or supervisor of a provincial district, on behalf of the provincial governor. In retirement, they often held high civic positions in the councils of Roman coloniae veterans' colonies. However, in social rank, the great majority of centurions were commoners, outside the small senatorial and equestrian elites which dominated the empire. In the class-conscious system of the Romans, this rendered even senior centurions far inferior in status to any of the legion's tribuni militum who were all of equestrian rank , and ineligible to command any unit larger than a centuria.
This is probably the reason why a cohort did not have an official commander. However, many historians believe that a cohort in the field was under the de facto command of its leading centurion, the centurio pilus prior , the commander of the cohort's 1st centuria. AD 50, centurions had been able to command auxiliary regiments, but the emperor Claudius restricted these commands to Knights.
The only escape-route for centurions from this "class-trap" was to reach the highest grade of centurio primus pilus. On completing his single-year term of office, the chief centurion of each legion i. Normally, an outgoing primus pilus known as a primipilaris would be promoted to praefectus castrorum quartermaster and third officer of a legion or to prefect of an auxiliary regiment or to tribune of a Praetorian cohort in Rome.
Beyond these posts, the senior command-positions reserved for knights were in theory open to primipilares: But in practice, primipilares rarely progressed to these posts due to their age unless they were in the minority of centurions directly appointed as young men.
It would take a ranker a median of 16 years just to reach centurion-rank and probably the same again to reach primus pilus. Most primipilares would thus be in their 50s when elevated to the Order of Knights, and already eligible for retirement, having completed 25 years' service. In contrast, hereditary knights would be appointed to military tribunates of a legion and command of auxiliary regiments in their 30s, leaving plenty of time to move on to the senior posts.
Auxiliary cohorts were also divided into centuriae , ranked in order of seniority. The centurion commanding the 1st centuria was known as the centurio princeps "leading centurion" and was the 2nd-in-command of the cohort after the praefectus. In the cavalry, the equivalent rank was the decurio decurion , in command of a turma squadron of 30 troopers. Again, the decurion of the 1st turma was designated the decurio princeps.
Most of the surviving evidence concerns legionary centurions and it is uncertain whether their auxiliary counterparts shared their high status and non-military role. Those rising from the ranks could be promotions from the legions as well as from the regiment's own ranks. In the Julio-Claudian period, auxiliary centurions and decurions were a roughly equal split between citizens and peregrini , though later citizens became predominant due to the spread of citizenship among military families.
Each legion contained six senior officers, five of equestrian and one of senatorial rank, called tribuni militum "tribunes of the soldiers". The title "tribune" derives from the fact that in Republican days, they were elected by the Roman people's assembly comitia centuriata from the ranks of Roman knights. The elected officers would stand on the tribunal dais. Originally the elected tribunes took turns to command their legion in pairs see Roman army of the mid-Republic. Under Julius Caesar, command of legions became informally entrusted to single officers dubbed legati "chosen ones" appointed by the proconsul , or governor, of the province in which the legions were stationed.
This position was formalised under Augustus. In the imperial army, the tribunes thus became staff-officers to the legatus. Formally, tribunes were entrusted with the legion's administration and paperwork, for which purpose they were each provided with a small personal staff of principales and military clerks cornicularii.
Tribunes' military role was apparently kept ill-defined and flexible, so as to provide the legion commander with a small group of senior officers to carry out special tasks. Tribunes could be asked to command detachments of one or more cohorts; command specialist units, such as a flotilla; lead special operations; supervise fortification projects or the collection of supplies.
In a pitched battle scenario, the available evidence does not permit a clear picture of a tribune's role. For example, Caesar relates 57 BC: But the other legions did not hear the signal, as they were separated by a wide depression, although the legates and military tribunes did their best to hold them back, in accordance with Caesar's orders. A tribune may have played a formal role in command of a sector of the legion's battle-line.
Alternatively, tribunes may have accompanied the legatus around the field, ready to convey his orders to particular senior centurions, or to assume command of a particular sector of the line at the behest of the legatus. In either case, as Roman knights, tribunes would move around the battle-field on horseback, not on foot like the centurions, and they would generally remain outside the fray, in order to maintain a strategic overview of the field. The legion's five equestrian tribunes were known as angusticlavii "narrow-banded", from the stripes a Roman knight was entitled to wear on his tunica , which was narrower than a senator's.
They differed from their senatorial colleague, the laticlavius "broad-banded" , in age, rank and experience. Before embarking on their military service tres militiae , their normal cursus honorum required them to perform the full range of administrative and religious posts in the council of their home city. Minimum-age limits for such posts implied that they would be at least 30 before starting the tres militiae. There is no evidence regarding the pay of military tribunes.
But since they ranked on a level with the commanders of auxiliary regiments, who were paid c. Tribunes' pay would in any case have fallen somewhere between the multiple of centurions and the multiple of legati. The legion's third officer was the praefectus castrorum "prefect of the camp" , a post mostly filled by former chief centurions. These would typically be in their 50s, having earned their equestrian status by a lifetime of experience at the sharp end of legionary activity. Officially, the role of the praefectus was, as the title implies, that of camp quartermaster, in charge of the legion's headquarters and supplies.
But with their enormous experience, the praefectus role extended much further, to acting as executive officer to the legatus , advising on all manner of military operations. In the absence of the legatus , the praefectus would normally deputise for him, under the nominal command of the laticlavius. From the time of Gallienus ruled , these officers were routinely placed in command of their legion. The legate's nominal second-in-command was the single military tribune of senatorial rank attached to the legion, the laticlavius literally: Typically the son of a senator sometimes the legate's own son , and aged in his early twenties, he was performing his military service before seeking election as quaestor and thereby gaining a seat in the Senate for which the minimum age was 25 years.
In the highly status-conscious Roman social system, his high birth would have commanded the automatic respect of even the most experienced commoner. The commander of an imperial legion was known as the legatus legionis. He was typically a senator of praetorian rank i. His military experience would be limited to that gained as serving in his early twenties as tribunus laticlavius. As a consequence, he would rely heavily on the advice of his enormously experienced praefectus castrorum.
In the early Julio-Claudian period, the commanders of the auxiliary units praefecti auxiliorum were often senior centurions and so ranked below the legionary tribunes. The position changed under Claudius, who restricted command of auxiliary regiments to men of equestrian rank. Furthermore, an equestrian military cursus honorum became established, known as the tres militiae "three commands" , each held for 3—4 years: These reforms had the effect of elevating praefecti to the same rank as legionary tribunes.
Under Hadrian, a fourth militia , command of a double-strength ala milliaria was established for especially proficient officers. It appears that in the 2nd century, the majority of auxiliary prefects were still of Italian origin. The pay of a praefectus of an auxiliary regiment in the early 2nd century has been estimated at over 50 times that of a miles common soldier.
A praefectus was not just a senior officer. He was also a Roman citizen which most of his men were not and, as a member of the equestrian order, an aristocrat. The social gulf between the praefectus and a peregrinus soldier was thus immense, and the pay differential reflected that fact. The numbering of the legions is confusing, due to duplicated and inconsistent numeration by various emperors. Several legions shared the same serial number with others. Augustus numbered the legions he founded himself from I, but at the same retained the serial numbers of those legions he inherited from his predecessors.
This policy was generally followed by those of his successors who also founded new legions there were thus many legions numbered I. However, even this practice was not consistently followed. For example, Vespasian formed two new legions out of units disbanded in disgrace after the Civil War of , but gave them the same serial numbers but different titles as the disbanded ones.
The name of Plutarch's grandfather was Lamprias , as he attested in Moralia  and in his Life of Antony. His brothers, Timon and Lamprias, are frequently mentioned in his essays and dialogues, which speak of Timon in particular in the most affectionate terms. Rualdus , in his work Life of Plutarchus , recovered the name of Plutarch's wife, Timoxena, from internal evidence afforded by his writings. A letter is still extant, addressed by Plutarch to his wife, bidding her not to grieve too much at the death of their two-year-old daughter, who was named Timoxena after her mother.
He hinted at a belief in reincarnation in that letter of consolation. The exact number of his sons is not certain, although two of them, Autobulus and the second Plutarch, are often mentioned. Plutarch's treatise De animae procreatione in Timaeo is dedicated to them, and the marriage of his son Autobulus is the occasion of one of the dinner parties recorded in the "Table Talk". Another person, Soklarus , is spoken of in terms which seem to imply that he was Plutarch's son, but this is nowhere definitely stated.
His treatise on marriage questions, addressed to Eurydice and Pollianus , seems to speak of her [ who? Plutarch studied mathematics and philosophy at the Academy of Athens under Ammonius from 66 to At some point, Plutarch took Roman citizenship.
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As evidenced by his new name, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , his sponsor for citizenship was Lucius Mestrius Florus , a Roman of consular status whom Plutarch also used as a historical source for his Life of Otho. He lived most of his life at Chaeronea, and was initiated into the mysteries of the Greek god Apollo. For many years Plutarch served as one of the two priests at the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the site of the famous Delphic Oracle, twenty miles from his home. By his writings and lectures Plutarch became a celebrity in the Roman Empire , yet he continued to reside where he was born, and actively participated in local affairs, even serving as mayor.
At his country estate, guests from all over the empire congregated for serious conversation, presided over by Plutarch in his marble chair. Many of these dialogues were recorded and published, and the 78 essays and other works which have survived are now known collectively as the Moralia. In addition to his duties as a priest of the Delphic temple, Plutarch was also a magistrate at Chaeronea and he represented his home [ clarification needed ] on various missions to foreign countries during his early adult years.
Plutarch held the office of archon in his native municipality, probably only an annual one which he likely served more than once. He busied himself with all the little matters of the town and undertook the humblest of duties. However, most historians consider this unlikely, since Illyria was not a procuratorial province, and Plutarch probably did not speak Illyrian. Plutarch spent the last thirty years of his life serving as a priest in Delphi.
He thus connected part of his literary work with the sanctuary of Apollo, the processes of oracle-giving and the personalities who lived or traveled there.
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According to Ammonius, the letter E written on the temple of Apollo in Delphi originated from the following fact: Chilon , Solon , Thales , Bias and Pittakos. However, the tyrants Cleobulos and Periandros used their political power in order to be incorporated in the list. Thus, the E, which corresponds to number 5, constituted an acknowledgment that the Delphic maxims actually originated from the five real wise men. The portrait of a philosopher exhibited at the exit of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi , dating to the 2nd century AD, had been in the past identified with Plutarch.
The man, although bearded, is depicted at a relatively young age. His hair and beard are rendered in coarse volumes and thin incisions. The gaze is deep, due to the heavy eyelids and the incised pupils.
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The portrait is no longer thought to represent Plutarch. Next to this portrait stands a fragmentary hermaic stele , bearing a portrait probably of the author from Chaeronea and priest in Delphi. Its inscription, however, reads: Of these, only the Lives of Galba and Otho survive. There is reason to believe that the two Lives still extant, those of Galba and Otho, "ought to be considered as a single work.
Arguing from the perspective of Platonic political philosophy cf. While morally questioning the behavior of the autocrats, he also gives an impression of their tragic destinies, ruthlessly competing for the throne and finally destroying each other. Galba-Otho was handed down through different channels. Thus it seems reasonable to maintain that Galba-Otho was from early on considered as an illustration of a moral-ethical approach, possibly even by Plutarch himself. Plutarch's best-known work is the Parallel Lives , a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged in pairs to illuminate their common moral virtues and vices.
The surviving Lives contain 23 pairs, each with one Greek Life and one Roman Life , as well as four unpaired single Lives. As is explained in the opening paragraph of his Life of Alexander , Plutarch was not concerned with history so much as the influence of character, good or bad, on the lives and destinies of men.
Whereas sometimes he barely touched on epoch-making events, he devoted much space to charming anecdote and incidental triviality, reasoning that this often said far more for his subjects than even their most famous accomplishments. He sought to provide rounded portraits, likening his craft to that of a painter; indeed, he went to tremendous lengths often leading to tenuous comparisons to draw parallels between physical appearance and moral character.
In many ways, he must be counted amongst the earliest moral philosophers. Some of the Lives , such as those of Heracles , Philip II of Macedon , Epaminondas and Scipio Africanus , no longer exist; many of the remaining Lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae or have been tampered with by later writers. Since Spartans wrote no history prior to the Hellenistic period, and since their only extant literature is fragments of 7th-century lyrics, Plutarch's five Spartan lives and Sayings of Spartans and Sayings of Spartan Women , rooted in sources that have since disappeared, are one of the richest sources for historians of Lacedaemonia.
Plutarch lived centuries after the Sparta he writes about and a full millennium separates him from the earliest events he records and even though he visited Sparta, many of the ancient customs he reports had been long abandoned, so he never actually saw what he wrote. As the historians Sarah Pomeroy, Stanley Burstein, Walter Donlan, and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts have written, "Plutarch was influenced by histories written after the decline of Sparta and marked by nostalgia for a happier past, real or imagined.
While flawed, Plutarch is nonetheless indispensable as one of the only ancient sources of information on Spartan life. Plutarch's Life of Alexander , written as a parallel to that of Julius Caesar, is one of only five extant tertiary sources on the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great. It includes anecdotes and descriptions of events that appear in no other source, just as Plutarch's portrait of Numa Pompilius , the putative second king of Rome, holds much that is unique on the early Roman calendar.
Plutarch devotes a great deal of space to Alexander's drive and desire, and strives to determine how much of it was presaged in his youth. He also draws extensively on the work of Lysippus , Alexander's favourite sculptor , to provide what is probably the fullest and most accurate description of the conqueror's physical appearance.
When it comes to his character, Plutarch emphasizes his unusual degree of self-control. As the narrative progresses, however, the subject incurs less admiration from his biographer and the deeds that it recounts become less savoury. The murder of Cleitus the Black , which Alexander instantly and deeply regretted, is commonly cited to this end. Much, too, is made of Alexander's scorn for luxury: Plutarch starts by telling the audacity of Caesar and his refusal to dismiss Cinna's daughter, Cornelia.
Other important parts are these containing his military deeds, accounts of battles and Caesar's capacity of inspiring the soldiers. His soldiers showed such good will and zeal in his service that those who in their previous campaigns had been in no way superior to others were invincible and irresistible in confronting every danger to enhance Caesar's fame. Such a man, for instance, was Acilius, who, in the sea-fight at Massalia, boarded a hostile ship and had his right hand cut off with a sword, but clung with the other hand to his shield, and dashing it into the faces of his foes, routed them all and got possession of the vessel.
Such a man, again, was Cassius Scaeva, who, in the battle at Dyrrhachium, had his eye struck out with an arrow, his shoulder transfixed with one javelin and his thigh with another, and received on his shield the blows of one hundred and thirty missiles. In this plight, he called the enemy to him as though he would surrender.
Two of them, accordingly, coming up, he lopped off the shoulder of one with his sword, smote the other in the face and put him to flight, and came off safely himself with the aid of his comrades. Again, in Britain, when the enemy had fallen upon the foremost centurions, who had plunged into a watery marsh, a soldier, while Caesar in person was watching the battle, dashed into the midst of the fight, displayed many conspicuous deeds of daring, and rescued the centurions, after the Barbarians had been routed. Then he himself, making his way with difficulty after all the rest, plunged into the muddy current, and at last, without his shield, partly swimming and partly wading, got across.
Caesar and his company were amazed and came to meet the soldier with cries of joy; but he, in great dejection, and with a burst of tears, cast himself at Caesar's feet, begging pardon for the loss of his shield. Again, in Africa, Scipio captured a ship of Caesar's in which Granius Petro, who had been appointed quaestor, was sailing. Of the rest of the passengers Scipio made booty, but told the quaestor that he offered him his life. Granius, however, remarking that it was the custom with Caesar's soldiers not to receive but to offer mercy, killed himself with a blow of his sword.
Sometimes, Plutarch quotes directly from the De Bello Gallico and even tells us of the moments when Caesar was dictating his works. In the final part of this Life , Plutarch counts Caesar's assassination, and several details. The book ends on telling the destiny of his murderers, and says that Caesar's "great guardian-genius" avenged him after life. Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus is a key text because it is the main historical account on Roman history for the period from to BC, for which neither Dionysius nor Livy have surviving texts.
Plutarch stretches and occasionally fabricates the similarities between famous Greeks and Romans in order to be able to write their biographies as parallel. The lives of Nicias and Crassus, for example, have little in common except that "both were rich and both suffered great military defeats at the ends of their lives". In his Life of Pompey , Plutarch praises Pompey's trustworthy character and tactful behaviour in order to conjure a moral judgement that opposes most historical accounts.
Plutarch delivers anecdotes with moral points, rather than in-depth comparative analyses of the causes of the fall of the Achaemenid Empire and the Roman Republic ,  and tends on occasion to fit facts to hypotheses [ citation needed ]. On the other hand, he generally sets out his moral anecdotes in chronological order unlike, say, his Roman contemporary Suetonius  and is rarely narrow-minded and unrealistic, almost always prepared to acknowledge the complexity of the human condition where moralising cannot explain it.
The remainder of Plutarch's surviving work is collected under the title of the Moralia loosely translated as Customs and Mores. It is an eclectic collection of seventy-eight essays and transcribed speeches, including On Fraternal Affection —a discourse on honour and affection of siblings toward each other, On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great —an important adjunct to his Life of the great king, On the Worship of Isis and Osiris a crucial source of information on Egyptian religious rites ,  along with more philosophical treatises, such as On the Decline of the Oracles , On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance , On Peace of Mind and lighter fare, such as Odysseus and Gryllus , a humorous dialogue between Homer 's Odysseus and one of Circe 's enchanted pigs.
The Moralia was composed first, while writing the Lives occupied much of the last two decades of Plutarch's own life. The customs of Romans and Greeks are illuminated in little essays that pose questions such as 'Why were patricians not permitted to live on the Capitoline? In On the Malice of Herodotus Plutarch criticizes the historian Herodotus for all manner of prejudice and misrepresentation. It has been called the "first instance in literature of the slashing review. The Romans loved the Lives , and enough copies were written out over the centuries so that a copy of most of the lives has survived to the present day.
An ancient list of works attributed to Plutarch, the 'Catalogue of Lamprias' contains works, of which 78 have come down to us. There are traces of twelve more Lives that are now lost. Plutarch's general procedure for the Lives was to write the life of a prominent Greek, then cast about for a suitable Roman parallel, and end with a brief comparison of the Greek and Roman lives.
Currently, only 19 of the parallel lives end with a comparison, while possibly they all did at one time. Also missing are many of his Lives which appear in a list of his writings, those of Hercules, the first pair of Parallel Lives , Scipio Africanus and Epaminondas , and the companions to the four solo biographies. Even the lives of such important figures as Augustus , Claudius and Nero have not been found and may be lost forever.
Plutarch was a Platonist , but was open to the influence of the Peripatetics , and in some details even to Stoicism despite his criticism of their principles. In opposition to Stoic materialism and Epicurean atheism he cherished a pure idea of God that was more in accordance with Plato. He strongly defends freedom of the will, and the immortality of the soul. Platonic-Peripatetic ethics were upheld by Plutarch against the opposing theories of the Stoics and Epicureans.
His attitude to popular religion was similar. The gods of different peoples are merely different names for one and the same divine Being and the powers that serve it. Plutarch's writings had an enormous influence on English and French literature.